Sustainability Bites

There is no such thing as a free lunch

environment

“Measuring What Matters”: With the first results in, what next?

“Measuring What Matters”: With the first results in, what next?

The first version of Australia’s national wellbeing framework “Measuring What Matters” has been released. The basic idea of the report is to shift from our narrow focus on key economic indicators, such as GDP and inflation, to embrace a wider suite of indicators that measure our overall quality of life. In the environment theme, six areas are covered: (urban) air quality; biodiversity; climate resilience; emissions reduction; protected areas; and resource use and waste generation. The headline result has to be that the threatened species index, which tracks the abundance of a selection of threatened species, shows a decline of 55% from a 1985 baseline to 2019, a period of just 34 years. This is a shocking number.

Has time been called on the native forest logging deals of the 1990s? Here’s what the Albanese government can do

Has time been called on the native forest logging deals of the 1990s? Here’s what the Albanese government can do

It seems time is being called on the forest settlement of the 1990s. These developments are already destabilising the federal government’s environmental law reform agenda, and could even derail it. The government could use the time between now and next year’s Senate debate on its reform package to work up a new approach. It could be built around forest restoration, conservation and Indigenous empowerment, as experts are proposing. If it doesn’t, we are headed for quite a stoush.

Get the basics right for National Environmental Standards to ensure truly sustainable development

Get the basics right for National Environmental Standards to ensure truly sustainable development

Australia’s environment minister faces some tough calls in developing national environmental standards. If strong and clear, they will protect nature and make it harder to get developments approved. But if the standards lack a clear statement of purpose and carry over rubbery phrases and weak offset requirements, then it will be business as usual, freshly wrapped.

New ‘Big Agenda’ for Nature faces many hurdles

New ‘Big Agenda’ for Nature faces many hurdles

The Albanese Government’s ‘Nature Positive Plan’ announced last week is a much-anticipated response to Professor Graeme Samuel’s 2020 Review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act. The plan is packed with policy announcements, most of which stick close to Samuel’s recommendations. But the path of this big agenda stretches far over the political horizon and is littered with hurdles. Here are ten hurdles the minister will have to jump, just for starters.

The fifth and final transformation: Restoring trust in decision-making

The fifth and final transformation: Restoring trust in decision-making

One of the main findings of the Samuel Review of the EPBC Act was that it was not trusted, either by business nor by the wider community. Restoring trust requires a fundamental shift from process-based decision-making to outcome-based decisions. This requires standards supported by regional plans and stronger institutions, including information systems and compliance regimes. At the end of the day, people will only trust environmental laws that truly protect and conserve the environment.

It’s ‘business as usual’, but at least there actually is plenty of business

It’s ‘business as usual’, but at least there actually is plenty of business

Australia’s environment department has been run down over the past decade. This month’s Estimate hearings reveals that the new Labor Government is putting extra resources towards environmental management. What does that mean? In terms of Indigenous heritage protection it’s a rare example of good news in the environment portfolio. In terms of biodiversity, the new government has made a small down payment, but on a veritable mountain of environmental debt.

Simplicity harmony and the third transformation

Simplicity harmony and the third transformation

Proposals for regulatory streamlining, and for the alignment of federal and state environmental assessment laws have been floated at various times over the last 30 years. Graeme Samuel’s review recommended a harmonising of both environmental processes and outcomes between federal and state jurisdictions. To do this we need to: Develop national standards; build a risk-based decision-making system; accredit states to take most of the decisions.

Getting results: the first transformation of our national environmental law starts with ‘standards’

Getting results: the first transformation of our national environmental law starts with ‘standards’

To transform our national environmental law, we need to begin with ‘standards’
Discretionary, bottom-up decision-making is no way to achieve consistent & ecologically sustainable outcomes.

Five transformations: Breathing life into Australia’s national environmental law

Five transformations: Breathing life into Australia’s national environmental law

The EPBC Act is the most important environmental law in the country, but it doesn’t work. To achieve what it was established to do it needs to:
– pursuing national environmental outcomes (rather than just be a prescriptive regulatory processe);
– shift from Indigenous tokenism to full use of Indigenous knowledge;
– simplify regulatory outcomes between federal and state jurisdictions;
– lay new foundations for quality decision-making; and
– restore trust in decision-making.